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April 14, 2021 5:51 pm  #1


Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

This is a sad story we've seen all too often. And now it's happened again. You probably have no idea who Lee Aaker is when you first hear his name. But those of a certain vintage who watched TV in the 50s and early 60s knew him better as "Corporal Rusty," best friend of the real star of the show, Rin Tin Tin. 

It was one of the original kids' shows from the U.S. about a young army brat and his brave and clever dog. The show ran for five years but stayed in reruns for decades. 

Aaker's career was long over when he passed away this month. He was described as being an "indigent decedent," meaning he'd fallen on hard times, was all but forgotten and had almost no money when he died. Sadly, it's an all-too-common story for some of the stars of kids' shows past. They grow up and age out of the demo that made them useful to producers, who in the old days, would discard them as quickly as they promoted them, thrown on Hollywood's trash heap. 

He was 77.

Lee Aaker, Child Star of ‘The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,’ Dies at 77

https://scontent-bos3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.6435-9/172213503_10225749177734868_5669870061427030369_n.jpg?_nc_cat=1&ccb=1-3&_nc_sid=730e14&_nc_ohc=bQ8ADSi5bLEAX927H33&_nc_ht=scontent-bos3-1.xx&oh=2675d39cea6a6e14d75ff0213ead2c34&oe=609EE22A
 

 

April 14, 2021 6:21 pm  #2


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

'Wheels' from DeGrassi died and wasn't found for two years.

 

April 14, 2021 6:24 pm  #3


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

Chrisphen wrote:

'Wheels' from DeGrassi died and wasn't found for two years.

More than that, actually - he died in November 2007, but it was February 2012 before it became public, and apparently his family only found out a month before going public.

 

April 14, 2021 8:16 pm  #4


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

That was very sad about Neil Hope, aka known as Wheels.  Here is the story that the Star ran about him..
https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2012/02/17/degrassi_star_neil_hope_aka_wheels_died_a_lonely_death_unnoticed.html

 

April 14, 2021 8:54 pm  #5


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

paterson1 wrote:

That was very sad about Neil Hope, aka known as Wheels.  Here is the story that the Star ran about him..
https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2012/02/17/degrassi_star_neil_hope_aka_wheels_died_a_lonely_death_unnoticed.html

Very sad indeed. Quite a number of child actors have had difficulties making the transition to a regular life and a regular job because they lacked the knowledge and experience to do so.

I also remember reading another article about Neil Hope stating that he wasn't getting any residuals from Degrassi because it wasn't a union production (something that apparently had been rectified in later incarnations of the show). Add the fact that he had health issues (he was a diabetic), as well as issues with alcoholism, and that's a recipe for a downward spiral for sure.

Although fans continued to wonder what happened to "Wheels", Hope managed to stay out of the spotlight during most of his adult life. He was finally tracked down by former Degrassi castmate Stefan Brogren for a W5 interview in 2005, just a couple of years before his death. Despite the difficulties he experienced in his life, he seemed generally upbeat, appearing to put a positive spin on things.






PJ
 

Last edited by Paul Jeffries (April 15, 2021 1:46 am)


Toronto's ORIGINAL classic hits station! http://www.classichitsonline.com
 

April 14, 2021 10:25 pm  #6


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

I was very familiar with Lee Aaker.  Who starred with Rin Tin Tin.  I remember Sgt. Biff O'Hara too.  Great Saturday morning TV.  There was a lot of mishandling of money for these kids.  Some from their parents as well.

Last edited by John D (April 15, 2021 9:22 am)

 

April 15, 2021 9:28 am  #7


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

John D wrote:

I was very familiar with Lee Aaker.  Who starred with Rin Tin Tin.  I remember Sgt. Biff O'Hara too.  Great Saturday morning TV.  There was a lot of mishandling of money for these kids.  Some from their parents as well.

I'm with you, John. After all these years, I knew his face right away.

 

April 15, 2021 10:43 am  #8


Re: Child Star Of 50s TV Dies Broke & Unremembered

So many sad stories like this one. Anissa Jones of Family Affair succumbed to drug addiction. So did Corey Haim. River Phoenix couldn't find anyone to Stand By Me when he needed it. And Rusty Hamer of Make Room For Daddy committed suicide.

And that's just a short list.

Even those who survived their childhood brush with fame often revealed the horror no one knew. Patty Duke was terribly abused, even as she was winning awards for her work. And then there was the horrific history of Diff'rent Strokes. Todd Bridges was constantly in trouble with the law. Gary Coleman saw his money squandered by his folks and his business advisor and wound up working as a security guard before he died. And Dana Plato overdosed. 

Not to mention Dennis The Menace's Jay North, who revealed he would have likely killed himself if there was a gun in his house. He's been a major survivor, and tells his story in a fascinating article from last year. Who suspected he'd suffered such terrible abuse at the hands of his aunt and uncle, the real menace? Jeepers, Mr. Wilson! How did anyone not know?

Here’s What Happened to ‘Dennis the Menace’ Star Jay North — His Journey Was a Painful One

Still, a few made it out not only unscathed but successful. Fred Savage survived his Wonder Years, has gone on to continue acting and has become a successful producer and director. Larry Mazzeo (aka Larry Mathews) remembers his time as Ritchie Petrie on The Dick van Dyke Show positively. Billy Mumy has found a career in both music and showbiz over the years. And Keith Thibodeaux has great memories of his time playing Little Ricky on I Love Lucy. 

Those are a few who made it out. But far too many didn't.

     Thread Starter